Apprentices have been around for centuries, it was the way in which skills were transferred from generation to generation, and when one sees evidence of the skilled work of people as far back as the sixteenth century and beyond it is clear that the system worked. One can only stand in awe at the standard of workmanship in some of the artefacts, achieved with none of the machines and materials available today. When I was an engineering apprentice with the Ministry of Supply I did part of my training alongside craft apprentices, they did two years in a training school followed by three years in the factory where they further developed their skills. They emerged at the end of their five years as highly skilled artisans. It was a very good apprenticeship. Five years was not an exceptionally long time, some trades had seven year apprenticeships, and it was all worth it in the days when these skills were so important.
Today there are some very good apprenticeships run largely by major concerns such as Rolls Royce, but they are less concerned with teaching manual skills, concentrating more on instruction on modern manufacturing methods and design process, and this requires a higher level of intelligence and education. There is less demand for manual skills in the workplace, far fewer people that can operate machine tools are required, so much machining is performed by digitally controlled machines or robots, much assembly work is also performed by robots, but the people that programme and set these robots need to be of graduate standard.
Of course there remains areas where more manual skills are required, there are smaller companies that cannot afford the outlay for robots but, unfortunately. they often do not offer training. The construction industry is one where there is still a significant demand for manual skills. The Ministry of Works used to run excellent apprentices in this field, they produced people that were competent carpenters, bricklayers, etc and were capable of following the architects plans, no matter how complex they might be. But today many builders do not offer apprenticeships, rather they try and poach skilled men (or use poorly trained personnel). The government’s initiative to encourage more apprenticeships is to be welcomed, but to set a target of three million apprenticeships is ridiculous. There are only two million 16-18-year olds in the country and many of those are still at school. According to one report there is already evidence that some employers are claiming that they are starting apprentices when they are just employing the youngsters in normal school leaver jobs, clerical work, retail work, and catering, that have been rebranded apprenticeships. According to one newspaper report, there are apprentice clerks, warehouse labourers, even an apprentice street cleaner. Calling them an apprentice enables them to pay an 18-year old £2.72 an hour rather than the minimum for that age of £5.13.
‘Quality apprenticeships’ need to be encouraged and the government should endeavour to ensure that there are more of these but to set some silly target for apprenticeships purely for political reasons is to be deplored.
Ron Watts

Every Little Helps

Did you participate in any Harvest Festival events this year? Supper, lunch, thanksgiving services? We, the church family of Christ Church Whittington and All Saints Wretton with Stoke Ferry have, over the last few years, celebrated Harvest with an Harvest Brunch during the morning service; and this year was no exception.
Along with worship, prayer and hymns we had sausages, bacon, eggs & beans, a wonderful combination which always reminds me of Jesus, cooking his disciples breakfast on the beach (John 21:1-25).
The Stoke Ferry Ladies Club has a Harvest Supper, All Saints Academy a Harvest Festival Service and West Dereham, a children’s Harvest Party. These celebrations are repeated all around the country in many, many different ways – Thanksgiving for everything that we have.
Aren’t we all lucky! We have people in our communities who organise these events, marshal the troops and deliver the end result, and these end results cover such a wide array of things, not only Harvest.
Do we value these people? Do we ever give thanks for their hard work or do we take it all for granted. Just for a moment consider who these people are in your community, here is a small example:
Folk, who run fitness clubs, village halls, youth clubs, playing fields, yoga, badminton, karate, film clubs: and what about parish councillors, community car schemes, school governors the PTA and all those unsung heroes who keep an eye on their neighbours.
Here is your chance to help your community- I understand that the cemetery dustbin had not been emptied for a couple of weeks. When asked why not, the bin man replied that he was not allowed to open the cemetery gate and collect the bin from inside the cemetery due to -yes you’ve got it – Health & Safety! So, if you are passing on a Wednesday evening and the dustbins have not been put on the outside of the gate, could you please open the gate lean in and put them on the other side. I did tell our Chair of the Parish Council that we would move them if we remembered. But I had to own up that we forget to put our own bins out more times than I care to admit to.
Yes, we have a lot to be grateful for. So, thank you, every one who makes a contribution to our wonderful village way of life.
Carol Nicholas-Letch

October Gardening

Gardening in October is entirely dependent on the weather. If there’s an Indian summer, there is no better time of year to be out in the garden and there are plenty of tasks to keep us all busy! A major point to note this month is the withdrawal of many fungicides as a result of changes to EU legislation under EC Regulations. This is because the effectiveness of some fungicides depends on environmental conditions, so we may need to try more than one product to give the best control. Also regular use of some systemic fungicides has lead to the build-up of strains of fungi which are tolerant to the chemicals so that they cease to be effective.
The withdrawal list includes two major products that are currently approved fungicides for use on edible plants. (Note: I have listed the chemical name as these may be found in ‘own brand label’ products, always check the small print for the chemical name).
• Copper oxychloride (Found in Bayer Fruit & Vegetable Disease Control) controls peach leaf curl, leaf spot, blight, canker and rust on many edibles. All remaining stocks must be used or disposed of before 30th November 2015.
• Myclobutanil (Bayer Systhane Fungus Fighter) systemic fungicide to control rust, black spot, powdery mildew, and scab on apples, pears, and currents. Cannot be sold after 30th November 2015, remaining stock must be used or disposed before 30th November 2016.
This may leave us in a situation in which there will be no chemical control for fungus infections on edibles. However it is always our view at P&R Garden Supplies that chemicals should only be used in the garden when they are really necessary. Prevention is invariably better than a cure and many diseases can be kept down by good cultivation techniques including crop rotation.
Now most greenhouse crops have finished it’s a good idea to clean and disinfect your greenhouse before moving tender plants back in. Whilst sulphur candles are being withdrawn from sale, Deadfast smoke generator is a perfect alternative and has the added benefit that plants can remain in place during treatment.
October is the perfect month for sowing broad beans as it gives the plants a good month’s head start on those sown in April, so they don’t get blackfly! I grow a very popular variety called ‘Aquadulce’ as it’s reliable and heavy cropping. Directly sow seeds in double rows and choose a sheltered position, ideally the soil should have been manured for the previous crop. As the plants grow they will need supporting as the haulm (stalk) of broad bean plants is very brittle and easily broken. Harvest broad bean pods when the beans are about the size of your thumb nail, and they will be very tender. Broad bean tops are delicious wilted with butter, pinching out the tops of the plants before the pods are formed will delay production and help stagger the crop.
Top Tips:
• Protect half-hardy plants with fleece, or move into a frost-free greenhouse.
• Lift & Divide herbaceous perennials whilst the soil is still warm.
• Directly sow hardy annuals into prepared borders for earlier flowers in 2016!
• Lift Dahlia & Begonia tubers to store dry over winter
• After tidying borders mulch with bark chips or compost.
• Wrap glue bands around the trunks of apple trees to trap winter moth females whose caterpillars shred spring flowers.
• Clear fallen leaves from lawns.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800

What does the Doctor Think? October

Who taught my grandchildren to read? Was it a good idea? 

As a boy, I always enjoyed reading. My grandfather, a marine engineer, had made me a box which contained an enormous battery. On top, he had mounted a brass morse code key (used to tap out morse code) which activated the light when depressed. Obviously, Grandpa’s intention was that I should learn the Morse Code (which I did) and that the dashes and dots would be represented by long and short flashes on my lamp. One of the features of the morse key was an ability to hold it down with an integral screw, thus producing constant light. I spent many happy hours at night, reading under the bedclothes (sheets, blankets and eiderdown to defeat Jack Frost on the inside of the window panes). I was satisfied that no light could escape and I must have known that my parents would have disapproved because it never occurred to me to turn on my bedroom light to read. Funds were tight and comics such as The Beano were read in a few minutes. So, for my allowed one comic a week, I always bought The Hotspur which was packed full with densely packed adventure stories and contained very few space-wasting pictures or cartoons. Having read my Hotspur once or twice, I would move on to my Biggles books and all the Arthur Ransome books which had been donated by an older boy who would never be a book hoarder like me – I still have them all 60 years later. I loved war stories and read The Cruel Sea several times before I was 10. The film came out in 1953 and starred Donald Sinden, whom we met on one of our cruises 4 years ago; I loved spending time with him and hearing how the film was made; he was a tremendous character.

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